Being the best athlete you can be requires talent and physical ability, but that can’t take you all the way unless you master the mental side of the game.
Whether you are performing or training, your mind needs clarity on the task at hand if you are to perform as well as you can. It is so easy to let your thinking become side-tracked and muddied by extraneous thoughts that break your concentration and lead to underperforming. Many of these thoughts can be negative and will produce a fear of failure response that will lead you to underachieve.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help an athlete focus and perform to the best of their ability. It relies on you being fully in the moment, in the now, not the past or future. If you can do this during training, in the build-up to the event, and while performing, there will be no room for negative or distracting thoughts to harm the outcome when it matters most.
Here are ten quotes about mindfulness in sports that will help you in your quest to be the sportsperson your skills allow:
10 Insightful Quotes About Mindfulness in Sports
- “You have to be able to center yourself, to let all of your emotions go. Don’t forget that you play with your soul as well as your body.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Abdul-Jabbar is an NBA star that played 20 seasons for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers and was the six-time winner of the NBA MVP award – a record. His quote sums up much of what mindfulness is about for an athlete. Not emotion-based, but present in the moment and centered. You must trust your preparation and instincts, especially during high-pressure situations.
- “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.” Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, but his quote is perfect for adapting to sports. Mindfulness can monitor how we react to events and how our bodies and minds change when faced with failure and success. It can help the athlete control his or her thoughts and actions to combat the negativity of poor outcomes and thrive on the good.
- “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller
Bob Feller played 18 seasons in the Major League for the Cleveland Indians, and his words reinforce the idea that we have to begin each day, event and game with a positivity that is not affected by a loss or poor performance the day before, or even the moment before. At the end of each day, take a moment to reflect on your progress. If you did not give your full effort, acknowledge it, learn from it, and become better for it.
- "You will always miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretzky
The world-famous Canadian hockey player reminds athletes that in order to succeed, you have to take every opportunity offered and not be distracted or scared. Your relationship with fear of failure needs to be reframed if you truly desire to reach your goals. One quick way to boost your self-belief to take those big shots involves preparation. Remember, practice and confidence go hand in hand – there are no short cuts to success.
- “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them; a desire, a dream, a vision.” Muhammad Ali
Ali is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of all time. His quote illustrates that, however good your training and preparation are, it is what goes on inside your head that will make the difference. We see that all the time with athletes that are capable of astonishing skills yet fail to measure up at the highest level. You can either become your greatest teammate or your biggest competition – it all depends on your mental fitness.
- “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
Jordan reminds us that failure is part of every athlete’s life and that you have to learn to live with it and turn it to your advantage. You mustn't dwell on failure but use it as a spur for improvement and then move on. Understanding that every defeat or failure is an opportunity to self-reflect and, ultimately, improve. Bare in mind, we learn more from defeat than from success.
- “It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that really counts.” John Wooden
John Wooden, credited by many as the father of the mental approach to coaching, points out that an athlete never stops learning and is always seeking to improve both body and brain. As athletes get older, their physical abilities inevitably begin to decline and they sometimes lose their edge. Often, because they understand their sport so well and can manage their body too, they are able to continue their career at the top for several years. Becoming a student of the game and having a sharper mind will allow you to make up for any drops in physical abilities.
- “Multitasking is seriously overrated. Try to do one task at a time and learn to do it with more intentionality.” Gareth J. Mole
Gareth J. Mole is a performance psychologist, and his words explain how mindfulness can help every athlete: Concentrate on each moment as it comes and don’t crowd your mind with what has passed and what is to come. Overthinking can quickly spiral into a less than desirable outcome, so be sure to trust your abilities and stay in the here and the now.
- "Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety.” Jack Nicklaus
A candidate for greatest golfer ever, Nicklaus reminds athletes that concentration can help control fear and anxiety and that maintaining focus is all-important. In fact, the gold legend would visualize success. He never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in his mind. Your ability to stay locked in during competition is often times the difference between success and failure.
- "My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I tell myself: Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed. If you run your race, you'll win... channel your energy. Focus." Carl Lewis
The winner of 10 Olympic medals, nine of them gold, and 10 World Championship medals (eight golds), Carl Lewis dominated long jump and sprinting for much of his career. Mindfulness can be a tool that helps you have the focus and positive mindset that gives you the freedom to perform at the top of your game. It will allow you to maximize your potential and effectively utilize all the hours in the gym and on the training field.
All athletes need repetitive training to perfect their skills and time in the gym to strengthen their body and increase endurance. But that is not enough. It is now recognized that most sports, particularly high-level sports, are won and lost in the head. Mindfulness can unlock this talent and provide the catalyst for improved performance. Keep these quotes readily accessible, whether it be in your bedroom or your locker, the next time you need to find a moment of peace before a big competition or game.